by Ezra LeBank
I fly bossy. I teach bossy. I live bossy... at least I aspire to.
Language creates a framework for how we understand. This framework influences our thoughts and our actions. So who decides what that language means?
In Emma Watson’s brilliant speech to the UN on gender equity, she mentioned how when she wanted to take a leadership role as a girl she was called bossy. This brought memories of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign last year that called on us to stop using the word “bossy,” because its widely considered a derogatory term directed toward women in leadership positions.
I am a heterosexual, middle class white man. And I am bossy.
As a flyer in partner acrobatics, a typically female role, I have experienced some social constructs usually reserved for women. For example, it is common that the base (the male role) directs and balances the flyer, while the flyer holds a shape that the base presents as his pretty object.
I’ve never taken kindly to this description.
I believe the central construct of partner acrobatics is that two structures meet to create a bond that allows them to live in balance. It is essentially unimportant what position each partner takes. What is important is how one partner extends toward the other, how they receive, and how they respond.
I believe a flyer can be responsible for leadership as often as a base. I believe acrobatics are successful based on expanding one’s sense of ease in practice, rather than how high we get. And I believe the word bossy means: the relentless pursuit of ease in flight.
I wasn’t always proud to be bossy.
One day I was encouraging a base to more efficiently connect through our hands to generate spin. A friend humorously noted, “He’s a bossy flyer, isn’t he?”
I was offput. I knew that being bossy wasn’t a good thing.
I made jokes about bossy flyer sayings to hide my wounded ego. We laughed. We developed a prospective clothing line. Then I did some self-reflection. When I fly, I am bossy. I make sure I receive the support I need. I take the lead when I want. I demand responsivity. I also listen, receive, adjust, and I definitely fly bossy. Why should I feel ashamed for not curbing my behavior to a social norm?
Once I owned my bossyness, I discovered that bossy runs deep. Flying bossy isn’t only about acrobatics, it’s an art. Fuck that, bossy is a lifestyle, a philosophy. Bossy is the relentless pursuit of ease in flight. Life is taking risks, leaping into the unknown with grace. We might wear tighter clothing in acrobatics, but the rest seems pretty similar to me.
Bossy is caring for yourself so you can be present for others. Bossy is knowing your boundaries, and demanding they be respected. Bossy is being courageous in body, mind, and heart. Bossy is being more committed to connection than accomplishment. Bossy is demanding that we are more powerful than I. Bossy is play and practice and leadership and boldness and grace, and a bossyfied quote every now and again. Bossy is challenging the status quo, and not stopping the good fight even though it can be tough, uncomfortable, and even hopeless sometimes. Bossy is being ferociously and unapologetically yourself, and inviting others to join you.
If someone thinks bossy is an insult that we need to ban, I’m afraid they have another thing coming. We don’t need to ban bossy, we need to brand it.
It is not our responsibility to wait to be told how we should behave. It is not our responsibility to make ourselves small. And it is not our responsibility to stop using powerful language because someone misused it.
It is our responsibility to live with fullness and boldness, where we dare to be courageous enough to live our truth in the face of challenge, and with the support of our partners in flight. It is our right to dare to be bossy.
You were born to fly bossy. We all were.
So the next time someone calls you bossy, stand a little taller, because our lives are a reflection of the truth that we are only free when we leap, that we are strongest when we admit that the ground we stand on is not so solid as we have been led to believe, that when we are in flight we are closer to the sources of our personhood, closer to the courage it takes to become oneself more fully. That’s who I am. That’s who you are. And when we join together, yeah, we’re a couple of bosses. It’s up to us to choose the risk to fly, so if we’re going to fly, I say we fly bossy.
Live well. Fly bossy.